RIDGELAND, S.C. — Rory McIlroy understands why Phil Mickelson said the LIV Golf circuit is trending up and the PGA Tour is trending down, but he doesn’t agree with the six-time major champion’s assessment of the current state of men’s professional golf.
“I don’t agree with what Phil said last week,” McIlroy said Wednesday ahead of this week’s CJ Cup at Congaree Golf Club. “I understand why he said it because of the position he is in, but I don’t think anyone that takes a logical view of the game of golf can agree with what he said.”
The field for the CJ Cup includes 15 of the top 20 players in the Official World Golf Ranking. Only one LIV golfer, Australia’s Cameron Smith, is currently ranked in the top 20. LIV golfers haven’t received points for where they finished in LIV Golf’s first seven events.
“I guess for them to be talking the way they are, it’s bold,” said McIlroy, who won last year’s CJ Cup, which was held in Las Vegas. “I think there’s a ton of propaganda being used and all sorts of stuff. I certainly don’t see the PGA Tour trending downward at all. All the talent, 95% of the talent is here. You’ve got people like Tom Kim coming through [who is] the future of our game.”
Spain’s Jon Rahm, a friend of Mickelson’s and a fellow former Arizona State star, also took exception to his comments, which were made to reporters at last week’s LIV Golf Jeddah event in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is financing the LIV Golf circuit, which is being fronted by two-time Open Championship winner Greg Norman.
“Man, I love Phil, but I don’t know what he’s talking about,” Rahm said. “I really don’t know why he said that. … I think there’s some great changes being made and great changes for the players on the tour. I truly don’t know what drove him to say something like that.”
Mickelson said this past Thursday that he was glad to be on the “winning side” of the divide between the LIV Golf Circuit and the PGA Tour.
“You have to pick what side do you think is going to be successful, and I firmly believe that I’m on the winning side of how things are going to evolve and shape in the coming years for professional golf,” he said. “We play against a lot of the best players in the world on LIV, and there are a lot of the best players in the world on the PGA Tour.
“And … until both sides sit down and have a conversation and work something out, both sides are going to continue to change and evolve. And I see LIV Golf trending upwards, I see the PGA Tour trending downwards and I love the side that I’m on.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.